Tom Perkins had a dream. It wasn’t to get rich, acquire power, or marry fame. As the man most responsible for creating Silicon Valley, he had done all that. His venture-capital firm, Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers remains the most celebrated money machine since the Medicis. He’d helped found Genentech and fund Google. And in 2006, his resignation from the Hewlett-Packard board of directors triggered the revelation of a spying scandal that dominated the front pages. Along the way, he also managed to get himself convicted of manslaughter in France and to become Danielle Steel’s Ex-Husband No. 5.
No, as hit his 70s, Perkins wanted to create the biggest, fastest, riskiest, highest-tech, most self-indulgent sailboat ever–the “perfect yacht.” His fantasy would be a modern clipper ship–as long as a football field, 42 feet wide, with three masts each rising 20 stories toward the heavens. This $130 million square-rigger–the Maltese Falcon–would evoke the era of magnificent vessels that raced across the oceans in the 19th century.
But the Falcon is more than a tribute to the past. Gone are all the deckhands to climb the yardarms. Gone is the intricate rigging that helped give the square-riggers of yore their impressive look. Instead, the Falcon’s giant carbon-fiber masts are entirely freestanding and rotate by computer. The bridge looks like something out of “Star Trek.” And the 15 huge sails unfurl at the touch of a screen. In short, this is a revolutionary machine–the most significant advance in sailing in 150 years.